Capitol Comments By Representative Todd Prichard:
Last week the legislature saw a lot of media as interest in a story of secret payments made to terminated state employees unfolded. The Senate and House Oversight Committees met to investigate the issue and get to the bottom of what happened. I am sure many of you reading this are aware of the situation by way of the media. I will continue to monitor the situation as more information comes to light. A necessary ingredient of good government is transparency and secret settlements have no place in open government.
In other news, budget bills continue to work their way through the legislative process. The House passed the Judicial Branch and Justice Systems budget, the Ag and DNR budget, and the Economic Development budget. The Judicial Branch and Justice Systems budget and Ag and DNR budgets will make their way back to the House, where there will be disagreements between the House and Senate versions. The Justice Systems budget underfunded the state’s prison system. While I am satisfied in the funding in some areas of the bill, the lack of funding for correctional officers is troubling. Safety for guards and inmates depends on adequate staffing of correctional officers on duty. This bill fails to provide the adequate funding to properly staff the prisons.
The Ag and DNR budget bill will likely return once the Senate amends it. Like the Judicial Branch and Justice Systems budget, there were some good funded programs, the current bill only funded REAP at $16 million. This figure should be much higher and close to $30 Million. REAP is an extremely popular and effective soil and water conservation program used across the state. Those in the conservation field and I agree that $16 million does not adequately fund this program.
Finally, I am happy to report the broadband bill is continuing to survive in the House. This bill is designed to provide incentives to internet providers to bring High Speed Internet and Broadband to all areas of the state. I will have more to follow, as we are currently working on the details, since the bill relates to locating of cell phone towers.
Finally, the legislature will soon be dealing with the education funding bill. This bill is the state’s largest outlay of funds and is critical to rural school districts. I await the Education Committees proposals.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at email@example.com or at the Statehouse during the week at 515-281-3221.